Builder facing £500,000 bill after demolishing home in conservation area

A builder who knocked down his house without consent is facing a £500,000 legal bill after being taken to court by Hammersmith & Fulham Council.

Piers Rance of Cloncurry Street, Fulham, was fined £120,000 at Isleworth Crown Court – £40,000 more than the previous highest fine for similar offences in the UK.

He was also told to pay the council’s legal costs of around £100,000 and will have to meet his own costs, said to be around £300,000 – to make the eye-watering total of more than half a million pounds.

By planning law anyone wishing to demolish a building in a conservation area needs to obtain permission from the council before going ahead with the work.

Cllr Nick Botterill, deputy leader and cabinet member for environment, said: “Rance showed absolutely no consideration for his neighbours or planning law by demolishing this house in a conservation area. Most people in this borough realise that their actions impact on others, but Rance did not care and did whatever he wanted.

“The colossal fine that Rance has been hit with is £40,000 more than the previous highest record fine and reflects how serious his offences are. While we are keen to create a borough of opportunity and welcome responsible development, people simply cannot take matters like this into their own hands.”

Rance had submitted a planning application to the council in April 2007 to extend his house on Cloncurry Street, Fulham, which included the excavation of a new basement underneath the house, but before the council could make a decision on whether or not to grant planning permission for these extensions, Rance had torn down the house and already begun digging out a new basement area.

Rance claimed that the building needed to be demolished as it was in a state of collapse but in his appeal trial, which took place in October, Judge Denniss did not accept this defence stating that it was extremely unlikely that Mr Rance would have purchased a property for £2.2million without carrying out a structural survey unless he always had the intention of demolishing it for financial gain.